Aleksi Saarela, Alex Nylander, and Adam Boqvist scored for the Blackhawks in their 4-3 overtime loss.
The Chicago Blackhawks opened up their preseason on Monday night in Washington, D.C. against the Capitals. As expected, both teams held most of their starters out of the lineup. The Blackhawks rolled with this lineup for their preseason opener:
The Blackhawks opened the scoring just 7:20 into the first period. Alex Nylander shimmied away from a Capitals defender to create space and found Erik Gustafsson at the blue line, who then rifled a one-timer past Phoenix Copley. Gustafsson’s heavy shot was redirected in front of the net by newly-acquired forward Aleksi Saarela.
The Blackhawks dominated the first period, as Alex Nylander and Brendan Perlini each had multiple scoring opportunities. Capitals’ goaltender Phoenix Copley came up big to keep it 1-0 after the first.
Early on in the second period, the Capitals tied it up off a Damien Riat tap-in goal. Collin Delia got caught being too aggressive, and Matthew Highmore was unable to tie-up Riat well enough.
The ‘Hawks would quickly answer back though, as Alex Nylander found a rebound off an Adam Boqvist shot and backhanded one past Copley. It was Nylander’s second point of the night. Aleksi Saarela picked up a secondary assist on the goal for his second point of the game as well.
Shortly after Nylander’s go-ahead goal, Brendan Perlini would take a penalty for holding the stick. The Capitals would cash in with the man advantage, as Travis Boyd tied the game at 2.
The Capitals would go on to take the lead, as 2019 third-round pick Alexei Protas stuffed one home past Delia. David Kampf didn’t take his man or the front of the net, and Carl Dahlstrom wasn’t able to provide support fast enough. Not a good look for Kampf, who’s projected to be a defensive-minded forward in the bottom six.
The Blackhawks would manage to tie the game back up at 3, as Adam Boqvist sniped home a beautiful goal past the glove of Copley. It didn’t take long for Boqvist to make a strong impression during the Blackhawks preseason.
Boqvist was magnificent offensively all night long, but his defense was as shaky as expected. Boqvist was caught on the ice for both of the Capitals first two goals of the game. The goals weren’t a direct result of his poor play, but Boqvist appeared timid at times in the defensive zone. When he needed to be aggressive and help the front of the net, it almost seemed like it wasn’t second nature. Hopefully, Adam Boqvist will only get stronger defensively as time goes on.
Neither team would score in the third period, and overtime would be necessary to decide the outcome.
Both teams would have their opportunities during the 3-on-3 period, but ultimately Tom Wilson scored the game-winner on a power move to the net. Wilson caught the Blackhawks with Dylan Sikura back on defense and took full advantage. Nicolas Beaudin, who had a poor night overall, was caught spectating on Wilson’s overtime goal.
Overall, the Blackhawks didn’t play terrible in their preseason opener. Alex Nylander was probably the most impressive Blackhawk of the night, with two points and multiple offensive chances. Brendan Perlini didn’t find the stat sheet, but he had four or five solid chances in the offensive zone. David Kampf and Aleksi Saarela were both noticeable alongside Nylander on the Blackhawks’ second line.
Defensively, Adam Boqvist remains a question mark, but his offense looks NHL ready. Slater Koekkoek and Carl Dahlstrom both played just okay, failing to take advantage of Philip Holm out of the lineup. Dennis Gilbert was physical in the defensive zone, something the Blackhawks need always need more of. Nicolas Beaudin was underwhelming defensively in spurts, including on Tom Wilson’s game-winning goal. Beaudin, like Boqvist, appears to lack that aggressive nature in the defensive zone. It is only one preseason game, so it’s not time to panic about Beaudin. His defense is something to keep an eye on for the remainder of the preseason though.
The Blackhawks will be back in action Tuesday night at 6:30 to take on the Detroit Red Wings. It will be interesting to see if the Blackhawks integrate some of their starters in the lineup for their second preseason game.
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